In A Stasi comedy, which opens this year’s German Film Festival, Ludger (David Kross) is hired by the Stasi to infiltrate a subversive counterculture movement. Instead, he falls in love with one target, sleeps with another, and begins a double life as underground poet and spy.
The film shows how German cinema has been revolutionized in the past five to ten years, because before that no one would have dared to broach such a subject, said German Film Festival spokesman Kevin Leutenegger.
“It used to be very conservative and rigid, very black and white with what could and could not be discussed in movies as well as other art forms,” says Leutenegger. “There’s been an enlightenment, really — in movies especially — to tell stories that in the past might have been considered untouchable.”
It has now been more than 30 years since the Berlin Wall fell, and stories about the divide between East and West Berlin are being handled more creatively by a new generation of filmmakers whose parents were the first to do the experience.
“It’s a generational thing in the sense that the older generation that’s been through it passes the baton to a younger generation that hasn’t heard of it,” says Leutenegger. “The real impact is already removed once.”
The terror inflicted by the Stasi, one of the most feared and hated tools of communism in the east, is dealt with more harshly elsewhere in the festival.
In The Last Executionstarring Lars Eidinger and based on a real case, an academic is lured by the promise of a prestigious professorship and a new apartment to work for the Stasi in East Berlin.
Dear Thomas, from the same period, is a black-and-white biopic of East German writer and filmmaker Thomas Brasch, betrayed by his own father during a protest march against the invasion of Prague. It features Albrecht Schuch from last year Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. German star Daniel Brühl returns this year in a retrospective of Goodbye lin! (2003), with Brühl as a young man trying to prevent his frail mother from learning about the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Chosen for the festival centerpiece and straight from its Berlinale premiere is the war drama the forgerabout a young Jewish graphic designer who hid in plain sight in 1940s Berlin, forging documents and IDs for hundreds of others, saving their lives in the process.
On a more contemporary note are The Housean AI thriller involving a high-tech vacation home gone wrong, and Contra, in which a law student and a cynical professor prepare for a debating competition.
In the retrospective box celebrating 50 years of the Goethe Institute anniversary, the maniac hit of 1998 Run Lola Run will be screened, along with the 1979 film of the novel by Günter Grass The tin drum.
Austrian and Swiss films are included this year, with the Swiss film Caged birdsabout a young lawyer struggling with an antiquated prison system, and The path, which follows two children and a dog as they escape Nazi-occupied France through the mountains. Popular Kino for Kids sidebar will return with highlights Mission Ulja Funkabout a 12-year-old astronomy enthusiast, School of Magical Animals, and The wall between us following two teenage lovers separated by the Berlin Wall.
The German Film Festival takes place at Palace Nova East End and Prospect from June 2-22.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.